Over the past 18 months, more and more people have experienced anxiety. It’s completely understandable (and normal) to feel anxious about the pandemic and how it might affect you and your family. As part of efforts to take care of your body and mind, here are some tips that might help during these uncertain times.
When stressed, our brains want us to be able to predict and consider the worst-case scenarios to help us prepare and protect ourselves. This is great when there is a way of problem-solving the situation but not so great when there isn’t. Our brains are predisposed to focus on the threat. We will forget the “every day” and bring full attention to things which are scary, without taking time to really think about the facts.
For example, we might think nothing of getting in our cars every day but be scared of spiders, even though evidence suggests that we are more likely to be at risk in a car, than from a spider.
Furthermore, we are not very good at tolerating uncertainty, something that in the current climate we might need to allow! Our minds want us to have explanations so when we can’t find them our brains will fill in the gaps, and if anxiety has any say these explanations will be usually based on our biggest fears.
Anxiety can snowball; we start with one worry and before we know where we are it’s grown and grown and we’re now heading for a full-on catastrophe (the “what if” … “but then what if…” scenario). Anxious thoughts get in the way of our minds taking in what we need to know and deciphering fact from fiction.
So what can we do to help ourselves?
Try to find a source of information that is reliable. Snippets of information from social media may represent one person’s worries, rather than the facts. Make sure you are informed but not overloaded and consider limiting your exposure to information and set boundaries around how much time you will allow yourself to read/listen to the news.
We can’t stop ourselves from worrying, but we can train our brains to focus on something else. Make time for worry, but also put in boundaries with how much mental space you will allow coronavirus to take. Think about what is in your control and what is not. Worrying about coronavirus will not guarantee a better outcome, so to help you in the moment schedule some coronavirus free time where you can put your attention onto something else.
Stay in touch with family and friends. We are always much better at offering advice and reassurance when it’s someone else going through a tricky time so remember, your loved ones can do the same for you! They could provide a space to have your thoughts and feelings normalised and offer you some distraction or reassurance. Some suggestions to stay connected could be picking up the phone, sending a text or joining an online support group.
Use coping skills
Think about what has helped you in the past when you’ve felt stressed or overwhelmed. It could be yoga, cooking or talking with a friend. What helps will be different from person to person but use what works best for you.
Consider the 5 steps to mental wellbeing
The more you nurture your mental health, the more resilient to anxiety and stress you will enable yourself to be. Strategies for mental wellbeing include: